The winter period is always incredibly busy for hospitals and we expect this winter to be no different. The fact is that colder weather usually means more illness and more accidents and that means demand for our services, particularly our Emergency Department, becomes very high. Meeting this demand can be challenging but we plan in advance with our partners to ensure we are ready for the winter period. The plans we put in place include additional staff, closer work with GPs and community teams, and treating people without the need for a bed. As always, our absolute priority is to deliver safe and high quality care even in the busiest of times.
You can help us to keep the hospital running smoothly by taking five routine steps to stay well this winter – and out of hospital. This will be good for you but also good for us. Fewer people through our doors means it will be easier for us to deliver safe, high quality care to all those who really need to be in hospital this winter.
Self-care – stay hydrated and make sure you have regular supplies of basic medication (including Paracetamol, plasters, indigestion remedies) in the home so you can deal with minor injuries and illnesses. Make sure you also get your free flu jab if you’re eligible and wash your hands frequently to help kill off and prevent the spread of any nasty bugs like Norovirus and Influenza (flu).
Please do not visit friends or relatives in hospital if you have had flu, heavy cold or Norovirus in the last week or so. Wait until you have been free of all symptoms for at least two days before visiting. This will help us keep the hospital as infection-free as possible and protect patients and staff from these bugs.
Use your pharmacist – they can give you advice and medication on a range of minor ailments including diarrhoea, runny nose, painful cough or a headache.
Call NHS 111 – qualified call handlers can give you advice on your symptoms and arrange for a doctor to call you back with further help and advice if necessary. Parents can also download the mobile HANDi App – it’s packed with advice about common childhood illnesses and how to treat them.
Contact your GP – they can help you if you have a non-life-threatening illness or any concerns about your health and well-being. Improved GP access in Devon means you can now make routine appointments to see a GP in the evenings and at weekends.
Visit a Minor Injuries Unit for minor injuries including burns, sprains, cuts and minor breaks – they’re staffed by experts and waiting times can be much shorter than the Emergency Department. There are units at Honiton, Tiverton, Exmouth, Sidmouth and Okehampton. Download the free NHSquicker app for live waiting and travel times for NHS services providing urgent care across Devon and Cornwall.
Thank you for your help.
Prof Adrian Harris
Medical Director, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust